Unlike James Garner, Clint Eastwood wanted to stay in his TV saddle

The actor was proud to be Rowdy Yates.

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Rawhide has the unique distinction of being the sixth-longest-running American TV Western, so be sure to retain that fact the next time you play Trivial Pursuit. It is exceeded only by Wagon Train, The Virginian, Bonanza, Death Valley Days, and, obviously, Gunsmoke. Compared to other Hollywood actors, Rawhide star Clint Eastwood was in it for the long haul.

Eastwood's commitment to his series was a huge relief for producers. Some stars had used TV westerns as a way to elevate their profile, only to abandon the shows that made them famous. From 1957 to 1962, James Garner appeared on television as Bret Maverick in the acclaimed Western Maverick. While the show could've continued in perpetuity, Garner fought to get out of his contract so that he could return to the big screen and resume taking film roles. Another high-profile Western departure came years later after Bonanza's 1964-65 season concluded. Pernell Roberts, star and fan favorite as Adam Cartwright, failed to renew his contract in search of greener pastures. 

Clint Eastwood, though, was built differently.

"I'll play Rowdy Yates in Rawhide until the cows come home, or as we say on the show, 'until we get the herd to Sedalia,'" Eastwood told the Daily News in '61. The profile was quick to note the rarity of such conviction and contextualized Eastwood's feelings by providing some key details about his background.

Clint Eastwood was not born to be Hollywood royalty. He was born, instead, about 375 miles north in San Francisco before moving out to Oakland, where he was raised. A post-high school stint as a lumberjack brought him further north to Oregon before he was drafted into the military in 1951. He was then assigned instructor duties for swimming and survival courses in California's Fort Ord. There, his life changed, as a happenstance meeting with a director working at the camp pointed Eastwood toward Hollywood.

"I had done some acting in school and little theatres in Oakland," said Eastwood. "But I never took it seriously. Just did it for fun. But the fact that it was fun made me start thinking seriously about it after the director talked to me." Upon completing his military service, Clint Eastwood opted to attend Los Angeles City College with the intention of studying drama. 

Another accidental meeting led to his role as Rowdy Yates in Rawhide. Eastwood was visiting a friend in Television City when a producer noticed the young actor. That exec had just left a casting meeting wherein he and other producers were trying to find the face for Rawhide's second lead. 

"I know it sounds too easy," Eastwood said some years later, "but that's exactly how it happened. Of course, the fact that I had studied acting for seven years didn't hurt any."

Clint Eastwood's success on Rawhide laid the foundation for a long and storied career in the pictures, which continues to produce incredible work. 

"I've never had it so good since I've been playing Rowdy Yates," said Eastwood, "And I'll stick in the saddle as long as they let me."

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15 Comments

GaryGoltz 7 months ago
and his first speaking part was on Highway Patrol in 1956
BrittReid GaryGoltz 7 months ago
He spoke in the film 'Revenge Of The Creature in 1955'.
WayneKeith GaryGoltz 6 months ago
The HP episode was a fairly big role for Clint. He made a short speaking appearance in "Tarantula" which was released 2 months earlier.
Wiseguy70005 7 months ago
I believe Garner left Maverick because of financial disagreements with Warner Bros.
obectionoverruled 7 months ago
Smith and Wesson Model 29 . 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world. Well, punk, do you feel lucky?
LynCarrigan 7 months ago
Love Rawhide! It seems very authentic to me. What do you think??
Runeshaper 7 months ago
Wow! That kind of dedication was so rare back then (from what I've read) and is even more rare today, I'd imagine! Clint is a rare gem.
Pacificsun 7 months ago
Could be wrong, and usually am. But at the time, my hunch is JG was a more recognizable movie actor than CE. Not that CE didn't catch up and probably exceed in his box office appeal. Just that being established on the Silver Screen was an easier deal than waiting for your break through television.
Andybandit 7 months ago
Both guys were good in their westerns. James Garner in Maverick, Nichols, and Brett Maverick. Clint Eastwood in Rawhide.
BrittReid 7 months ago
Did he fire six shots or only five?
Runeshaper BrittReid 7 months ago
Great film!
Moverfan BrittReid 7 months ago
To tell you the truth, I forgot myself...
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